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Menges Balances School, Travel, while Pursuing Soccer Dreams

The Thorns rookie defender and surprise starter at centerback will receive her Bachelor’s in Psychology during Georgetown University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday morning in Washington, D.C.

Stacey Neve - Stumptown Footy

When many college seniors reach their final term, they are often trying to decide what they want to do next.

They may have internships to finish up, a thesis to write, research to complete, and/or graduate school applications and interview to prepare for.

Not many of them are playing professional soccer and traveling across the country every week to do so, all while balancing their senior year course-load.

That is exactly what Portland Thorns rookie defender Emily Menges has been able to do.

The 21 year-old from Garden City, New York decided that putting off her degree was not an option, a decision that hurt her draft stock but ultimately landed her in Portland, and with former youth coach at Albertson Soccer Club, Paul Riley.

"A lot of girls either graduate early or put it off until next year," Menges told Georgetown's The Hoya in January. "I didn't want to be one to put it off, and Georgetown doesn't offer online classes, which is what some of the other girls do...I couldn't have asked for a better place to go."

It hasn't been an easy road for Menges over the past few months.  While she was getting ready to open the Thorns' season as a reserve, starting centerback Rachel Van Hollebeke went down with an ankle injury in the 3rd minute of their April 10th match against China, an injury that has kept her from playing a minute in the Thorns first six matches of the season.

Enter Menges.

The speedy defender was thrown right into the fire, making her first start two days later against the high pressure offense of the Houston Dash and has played every minute since, for a Thorns side that has only allowed 4 goals this season.

She hasn't put off her studies, though.  While her teammates train twice a day, Menges heads back to Washington, D.C. to finish her studies, joining the team the day before matches to train, but otherwise training on her own and with her former coaches at Georgetown.

How has she been able to do it?

"I've been texting our conditioning guy, Mike, back and forth, he's been giving me workouts to do at school and my assistant coach at school has been getting on the field with me to make sure I get training in." Menges said following training last Friday at Providence Park.  "I've been doing training, just not with the team...It's annoying, definitely.  I wish I was here full time, but I almost done, so another week and then I'll be here full time."

Luckily, she's had understanding professors.

"Yeah, my teachers have been alright about it...I've missed a bunch of class, but I've had things to do to make up that missed class.   I have plenty of downtime on the road with flying and stuff I can get my work done.  It's been alright. It's been okay."

For most student-athletes, managing their time becomes a make-or-break task that they must learn early in their college career, but Menges has taken it to a completely new level.

She looks forward to it being over.

"Oh yeah, for sure. I wish I was here full time, but I mean they were understanding, they know I have to graduate and umm, it will be nice to get it over with now and then next year I won't have to worry about, won't have to think about college anymore...I think the biggest thing is practicing everyday with the team, twice a day."

Luckily for Menges and the Thorns, she's been able to pursue both her academic and professional soccer dreams, and by a stroke of scheduling luck, will walk across the stage tomorrow, all without missing a match.

When she suits up for the Thorns against Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash this Wednesday at Providence Park, she will not only be a key component of the NWSL's top defensive unit, but she will also have another title.

Georgetown University graduate with a Bachelor's in Psychology.

For Menges, it has to be a dream come true.